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Meaningful ways to increase your productivity, performance and well-being backed up by scientific research.

Why Gratitude?

As we approach a new year and the 2-year mark for COVID-19 our lives continue to feel tenuous as we crave for more of what feels “normal.” In this time, it might be hard to be grateful. Yet gratitude can be a small thing that can make a difference in how you feel on a day-to-day basis.

Neuroscientists and psychologists have concluded, across a variety of studies, that expressing gratitude can be an effective way to help us feel better and more optimistic (Tabibnia, 2020). Gratitude exercises can improve our mental and physical health as it reduces our arousal and it triggers the areas of our brain associated with rewards (Tabibnia, 2020). Gratitude also helps us to slow down and be present, keep negative emotions from bubbling up and strengthen our social connections (Emmons, 2013). In one study, adults who journaled about their gratitude every day for two weeks reported feeling less anxiety and a greater sense of optimism and overall satisfaction with life (Kerr, O’Donovan, & Pepping, 2015).

Beyond personally benefiting from gratitude, your workplace can also benefit from gratitude. Among healthcare providers, those who wrote in a gratitude journal twice a week experienced less stress and lower levels of depression than providers who did not write in this journal (Cheng, Tsui & Lam, 2015). Providing specific gratitude, in which you describe what happened and the impact it had on you, also helps build relationships and helps employees feel valued and appreciated in the workplace (Gordon, 2019).

So what can you do to increase the gratitude you and others experience? First, you can create a gratitude habit or ritual (Fehr, 2019).  A great time for a gratitude ritual is when you are transitioning – perhaps starting or ending your work day or starting or ending your day. Pause for five minutes and ask yourself, “What am I grateful for right now?” You might be grateful for a meeting that got canceled so you have a little extra time to get your work done. Or, you might be grateful that the sun is shining and lifting your spirits. Or, you might be grateful that you have the knowledge and skills to help a co-worker with a challenging task. As you think about what you are grateful for, think about it deeply. How did this come about – was it luck, someone else’s work or the result of your hard work? How does this make you feel and what impact is it having on your thoughts right now? Finally, if you had to give this moment of gratitude a title, what would its title be?  Writing down your gratitude can help you get even more from this moment of gratitude as you dwell on the positive.

A second strategy to increase gratitude is to share it with others. When you share your gratitude, share it in a way that is genuine and specific (Smith, 2013). For example, let’s say you are grateful for a co-worker answering numerous questions in a meeting and relieving you from answering all the questions yourself. After the meeting you could send a note or pull the co-worker aside and say something like, “Thank you for answering all of those questions so calmly and so factually in that meeting. It reminded me that we are in this together and that we have each other’s back.” In sharing this gratitude, it describes specific actions and the impact the act had. This genuine and specific gratitude helps the co-worker know what was appreciated (so the behavior might be repeated again) and that the behavior and the co-worker are valued members of the team and organization. This form of gratitude is meaningful and can have a lasting impact on the giver and receiver.

Personally, what I love most about using gratitude to lift spirits is that it is simple. It doesn’t cost us anything but a few thoughtful moments. Pausing and giving your full attention to someone for just a few moments to describe how and why you are thankful can lift their spirits as well as your own.


Cheng, S. T., Tsui, P. K., & Lam, J. H. (2015). Improving mental health in health care practitioners: randomized controlled trial of a gratitude intervention. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology83(1), 177–186. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037895

Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Journal of clinical psychology69(8), 846–855. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22020

Fehr, R. (2019, February). Three research-baked tips for a grateful workplace [Video]. Greater Good Science Center. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/item/three_research_backed_tips_for_a_grateful_workplace

Gordon, A.M. (2019, January). Four myths about being grateful at work [Video]. Greater Good Science Center. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/video/series/gratitude_and_well_being_at_work

Kerr, S. L., O’Donovan, A., & Pepping, C. A. (2015). Can gratitude and kindness interventions enhance well-being in a clinical sample? Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being, 16(1), 17–36. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9492-1

Smith, J. A. (2013, May 16). Five ways to cultivate gratitude at work. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_to_cultivate_gratitude_at_work

Tabibnia, G. (2020). An affective neuroscience model of boosting resilience in adults, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 115, 321-350. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.05.005